On Friday UEFA conducted the draws for the Champions League and Europa League play-off rounds. In the Champions League, Vfb Stuttgart will be matched against FC Timisoara of Romania’s Liga 1. Timisoara finished as runners-up in last year’s Romanian Championship, and boast the likes of Costa Rican international striker Winston Parks. Having successfully avoided the more difficult draws of Fiorentina or Athletico Madrid, however, Die Schwaben will certainly be the favorites to progress to the Champions League Group Stage, where they will join fellow Bundesliga title-challengers Wolfsburg and Bayern Munich.
The Third Qualifying Round for the Inaugural UEFA Europa League Campaign saw last year’s beaten DFB Pokal and UEFA Cup Semi-Finalists Hamburg progress easily against Danish side Randers FC with a score of 4-1 on aggregate. In the Play-off Round Die Rothosen have been drawn against French team EA Guingamp , and are certainly the favorites to progress. They will be joined in the next round by fellow Bundesliga sides Hertha Berlin and Werder Bremen, last year’s UEFA-Cup Runners-Up and DFB Pokal winners.
Hertha Berlin have been tasked with overcoming Denmark’s Brøndby IF en route to reaching the Europa League Group stages. While Brøndby IF should not be taken lightly, again, Die Alte Dame is the odds-on favorite to secure a spot in the Group Stage.
Werder Bremen, meanwhile, begin their quest to return to a European final against FK Aktobe of Kazakhstan, the lowest seeded team left standing in an UEFA Competition this season (0.649). Werder Bremen, currently the highest seeded team taking part in the Europa League (91.339) are astronomical favorites to progress. Should FK Aktobe, the reigning Kazak Champions, get a result against Werder Bremen, it would certainly be the greatest upset in European Club football in quite a long time.
The Group Stages of European Club Football are nearly upon us, and all four Bundesliga sides are favorites to progress. As if the challenge of representing the Bundesliga on the European Stage was not enough for these clubs (along with the German Clubs entering in the Group Stage), this season’s Champions and Europa Leagues provides an addition opportunity, one that could greatly determine the race at the top of the Bundesliga table this season.
Should German clubs perform better than then their Italian counterparts this season on the European Stage, Germany will in all likelihood pass Italy for the third spot in the UEFA Country Coefficients. This of course means that next season it is possible to have four German teams qualify for the Champions League. With the Bundesliga title race, and as a result, the race for the Champions League spots looking tighter than ever this season, these matches in Europe have attained a new level of importance.
What makes this situation interesting is that all the German Clubs contesting European Competitions this season are also favorites to qualify for European Competition again through their league standing. The opportunity to boost the number of Champions League spots for next season means that clubs will be much less likely to sacrifice their league campaign in the latter half of the season for the sake of progressing further in the Europa League or Champions League, as a good performance in the latter will make their league campaign all the more valuable.
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves; we have a long season of European Club Competition ahead of us. Hopefully the competitive nature of the Bundesliga will prepare its clubs for the challenge of winning silverware in Europe.